It’s the end of a lovely day out for a special family event. The kids are in bed and you settle down at the computer with a cup of tea to review the day’s photos. You congratulate yourself, the unofficial family photographer, for capturing some truly special moments, and take pride in knowing you took a photo of everyone present.
Except yourself, of course.
You won’t admit it, but the true reason behind your eagerness to take on the role of photographer at these events is not because of your incredibly awesome DSLR with the zoom lens. No, even though you’re adventurous enough to take your camera out of automatic mode and play with the manual settings, deep down you know why you do it.
Brushing that thought away, you smile as you see the excited smiles of your kids…the expression of your husband’s face as he makes a great catch…the arty landscape shot of your outing’s backdrop. Then you wince as you catch a glimpse of a new figure in the photo. Someone else clearly got a hold of your camera, and there are unauthorised images of yourself on the screen.
Ugh, my arms are huge in this one. Delete.
How many chins do I have in this one? Delete.
Seriously? I’m about to sneeze in this one! Delete.
…and so on. Before you know it, all evidence that you attended the event is gone.
Sound familiar? It’s not that you don’t like being in photos, it’s just that…well…not right now, you think. Wait until you feel more confident about yourself – once you’ve lost weight/gained weight/toned up/grown out this stupid haircut/insert your body image issue here.
The next family occasion is the same story…as is the next on and the one after that. Suddenly one day you’re looking at your photos and marvelling over how fast your babies have grown. Feeling nostalgic, you begin to flick back through old photos. You begin to realise that – other than the initial squishy newborn pics – you have no photos of yourself with your children when they were babies. And now it’s too late.
I get it. Really, I do. The thing is, though, while you refuse to be photographed until you’re ready, your kids are growing. They have a habit of doing that. You only get one chance at their childhood (some days that makes me sob, others it makes me somersault with joy).
If that isn’t enough of a reason to take your finger off the delete button, consider this – these photos aren’t about you. Okay, I’ll rephrase that – they’re not just about you. There’s a few things in this, so I’ll go through them.
Firstly, when you delete the photos because you don’t like how you look, you’re denying others the chance to look great in them. Sure, you think your backside looks enormous in this – but your daughter has the most amazing look of joy on her face. Deleting the whole image means you lose that.
Secondly, you’re denying others the chance to love you as you are now. Let’s be honest – you may never be content with your body image. You’ll probably always have aspects of yourself that you dislike. You automatically assume no one wants to see pictures of you, despite loving your family through their imperfections. Give them the benefit of the doubt and let them love you and your imperfections. Let them see photographs of yourself.
Thirdly, deleting the photos assumes they are for your benefit, and yours alone. This was my biggest mistake. The photographs you take now are a record of these moments for now and future generations. They belong to your children as much as they do to you. In fact, as their future custodian, I’d wager they have a stronger claim to them. Your children won’t look back and see your minor (or major) imperfections. They will hopefully look back and see a parent that loved them and cherish a precious memory of their childhood.
So challenge yourself and get in front of the camera. Hold off deleting every image of yourself. You have my permission to delete photos of yourself sneezing though – no one looks good sneezing. If you don’t want them appearing on your screensaver, either print them off for safekeeping, or put them on a flash drive and delete the files. Just be brave and smile.